Monday, February 15, 2016


What I've Been Watching

Jurassic World - this was excellent, I really enjoyed seeing the World in action and the various Dinosaurs, the action was fast paced and edge of your seat stuff, I wish I'd seen it on the big screen

Lucky Them – this was a disappointing film, sounded good on paper. A music critic (Toni Collette) embarks on a journey to find out what happened to her first love who happened to be a great indie artist that disappeared. But it just fell flat, she was good, the story was interesting. Oliver Platt as her boss perfect, and Thomas Haden-Church as a quirky friend/filmmaker who goes along for the ride. But it just didn’t work.
Atlantic City – directed by the late, great Louis Malle, I loved this gritty film of gambling, drugs, and would be gangsters set against the infamous backdrop of Atlantic City. Susan Sarandon is a waitress trying to make it good for a better life in Monte Carlo, Burt Lancaster is her would be gangster neighbour. Situations arise and they find themselves together against it all. Malle delivers a gritty noir feel to the film, helped considerably by the crumbling Atlantic City at the time. Both Sarandon and Lancaster excel.

Suite Francaise – this was  a good adaptation of the popular book. Like the book, I found something lacking. The book itself was written by Irene Nemirovsky, a French author, who was captured and interned in Auschwitz where she died at 39. He daughter found what she thought were diary entries after the war and put them away unable to read them, in 1990 she did and found it was a book written during this period of WWII and it was published. I think this is where it is lacking, it is published as is, and I am sure it was only ever a first draft, not a fully realised book. The book was actually 2 of a proposed five novellas depicting war. An outline for the third was written, but only titles for the other two. Nonetheless it is a good story, depicting the life of people in the small town of Bussey in France. The movie takes most of its action from book two which is about a young woman (Michelle Williams) and her austere mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas) hiding a man from the Nazis. They also have a live in German soldier (Matthias Schoenaerts) who has an affair with the young woman.
Trishna – Michael Winterbottom is one of my favourite film makers, his diversity is amazing. Trishna is an Indian film, based on Tess of the d’Urbervilles with Freida Pinto in the Tess/Trishna character. It is beautifully filmed with lush interiors and slummy exteriors, and includes some Bollywood type sequences but it is Pinto’s stunningly tragic performance that raises this film.
Inside Out ­– I am not a fan of animation (have I said that here before? I either love some or hate them, there is no in between with me) but this I cannot begin to say how much I loved! Firstly, it is a great concept, unique in its vision and beautifully constructed/presented. Secondly, it just works on every level. I would imagine younger kids just appreciate the characters, colour, and humour. Older kids would start to get most, if not all of it, but I don’t think it would be too confronting, and adults, well adults like me, just get it. I loved the whole concept, and it made me smile and weep, boy did I weep. The voice casting was also note perfect. I immediately recognised Amy Poehler as Joy and she was perfection. And the wonderful Richard Kind as Bing Bong just about killed me, I loved his character so very very much. The rest I needed to look up, which is great, I hate really knowing the voice behind an animated character as it can take away from the experience. Phyllis Smith, Sadness, was particularly well cast also. I know everyone has seen this, but if you haven’t you must!

I am Big Bird: the Caroll Spinney Story - I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this documentary about the gentle and beautiful man that is Big Bird (and Oscar). The documentary tells Caroll’s life story, his sad childhood and early life, his being ‘discovered’ by Jim Henson and his initial struggle but lifelong love of Big Bird. We go behind the scenes at Sesame Street and see how they bring Big Bird to life, a remarkably physical role that Caroll is still playing at 80! There are interviews with key Sesame Street people, family, friends. Caroll is truly loved and many say he IS Big Bird. The love story that is Caroll and his wife is also told, and a few intriguing dark moments from his life. One is still giving me goosebumps. Caroll and Sesame Street were approached by NASA for Big Bird to go into space as part of their educational program, to inspire kids about space. Caroll was initially scared and unsure but eventually said yes. But NASA realised Big Bird was just too big to fit into the space shuttle. Which is funny, until you realise Big Bird was replaced by a female teacher and that particular space shuttle was Challenger!!! Caroll is a firm believer of documenting life, so the filmmakers were lucky to have much old footage to draw from when putting this together. It’s funny, melancholy, and simply a beautiful film. For the child in all of us – you must see this!
Slow Train Around Africa – this lovely travel series hosted by Griff Rhys Jones takes him on a journey of the train systems around Africa. At times bleak, but mostly upbeat and interesting, Griff shows the more fascinating side of Africa.
Walking the Nile – A more subdue documentary, showing a very real and edgy Africa. This documents explorer Levison Wood as he becomes the first man to walk the entirety of The Nile River. This means trudging through awful areas of Africa, mean and dry land, war torn areas, areas thriving on thievery and pirating, dangerous animals, and even more dangerous people. As an ex-solider Lev is pretty level headed about most of the situations, but he comes unstuck many times during the 9 month journey which has quite a bit of real drama and tragedy attached to it. But it’s a must see doco.
Redesign My Brain S2 – This is the second season of this unusual documentary with the affable Todd Sampson. This time all roads leading to a high wire walk, whilst the tasks leading up to this were interesting, it was this last task that had my full attention. Firstly as I am a huge fan of Philippe Petit, the French highwire walker and secondly I am terrified of heights, so the brain talk to overcome this intrigued me...I highly doubt it would have worked on me. I won’t give away anymore, but it is really worth checking out!
Hiding – I missed this thrilling Australian drama when it showed on television, but was immediately drawn to this misfit family in witness protection.
Sons of Anarchy S6/Final Season – the penultimate season of this fave. It begins, as always, slow and builds and builds until you just cannot stop watching it. Shakespearian in story, redneck in acting, but truly stunning to watch. Dirty and violent for sure, but hey Shakespeare was too. This season contains more twists and double crossing than ever and feats of jaw dropping foul. As always Maggie Siff (Tara) and Katey Sagal (Gemma) stand out with raw, edgy performances. Keen to see how this saga ends!

And it was stunning! Shakespearean as always, Sutter really lifted his game in this final season. Deaths a plenty and superb storylines for supporting cast members. You know the entire series was working towards this end, and it delivered, brutally and majestically. I never would have thought I’d love a series about bikie gangs, but I bloody loved this. So very much, mostly due to great writing and superb acting. It’ll be missed.
Humans – a compelling and provocative series from the BBC, about cloned robotic ‘help’ that is set in the near future. Starring Katherine Parkinson (IT Crowd) as a lawyer who is overworked and against her wishes her husband purchases one of the robots, Anita, to assist around the house. Lines are blurred and some creepy things start to happen. Something is not quite right with Anita. Around Britain, weird things are happening with some of the robots, and people are on high alert. Meanwhile Doctor Millican (William Hurt) is acting suspiciously and his very old robot is also not behaving as it should. What is going on? I really loved this, we’ve all had dreams about a robot coming in to help, but where do we start and finish with such things and what really would be the impact on our lives. Humans explores this and more. Part sociology, part fantasy, part thriller, Humans is must see.
The Escape Artist – this is a British three-parter starring David Tennant from a few years back. He is Barrister notorious for getting everyone off, when he gets a possible killer off things start to unravel in his life and he takes unusual steps to right the wrongs. This is a typical murder thriller, raised by a great turn from Tennant.

Penny Dreadful S1  - I am very late to the party here, but I just loved this Victorian Fantasy series. Based on all the Victorian book characters, Frankenstein, his monster, Van Helsing, Dorian Gray, Dr Jekyll etc, and including witches, vampires, and séances. The story revolves around Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton in a great turn!), explorer of Africa, and his quest to find his daughter. Assisted by Vanessa Ives (Eva Green – she is EVERYTHING in this role!) who is very complex with much to hide. They are joined by Ethan Chandler (played with wonderful guts and whimsy by Josh Hartnett) an American cowboy of sorts, that is also more than meets the eye. This first series sets up the lost daughter plot and several other smaller subplots. All these characters interact with each other like a jigsaw being clicked together, things unravel and reveal as the season finishes. Apparently S2 is even better!

The Family Law – this is a fabulous local series from the hilarious book by Benjamin Law. The casting is perfect, and it’s lovely to see an Asian family in a comedy in prime time. This is every family, although the Mum, Jenny, is not every Mum. She is the standout character, although the young Ben is beautifully portrayed. I cannot recommend this show highly enough

X-Files – and so they are ba-ack!!! The first two episodes seemed immense, but brilliantly so, how wonderful to see Mulder and Scully back on our screens, old friends. By episode 3, things were in full swing. It feels like no time has gone since we last saw them. The intensity, the weirdness, the strange and eerie, the humour, the melancholy, all back with the very same introduction.  

What I’ve Been Reading

Bone of Fact by David Walsh and The Making of Mona by Adrian Franklin – I guess these are companion pieces, a memoir by the man and a book about his museum, but both are more than that, they show everything it takes to build an icon and be a builder of an icon. And how each little flicker or nuance in a large life can build towards something quite monumental. I’ve yet to visit Mona, but it’s atop my must do in Australia list.

Audrey at home by Luca Dottit – this was a lovely small sized coffee table type book by her son about her life as her knew it and her love of cooking with recipes etc. I found his tone a little, no one really knew my mother but I did, which does make sense but i felt he was trying to prove a point somehow. Nonetheless this was a nice book with some insight.

From the Heart: a collection from Women of Letters curated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire – this is another volume of letters from this wonderful live experience. Featuring a range of interesting people from Australia and beyond. My favourite by far was Chris Taylor writing a letter to someone who impacted his life, a girl he met and sort of fell in love with 15 years earlier during a long and unexpected road trip/lift home from a party. It was beautiful, and heart wrenching, and left me all misty eyed. Also a fabulous chapter of Letters to my other half – with letters between interesting couples, not necessarily romantic couples, although they are there. I was lucky enough to see this in the flesh at the Sydney Writer’s Festival a few years back.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – this is the first book club book of the year and what a remarkable one at that. I saw the film last year, not normally something that would take my fancy, but it did and the book even better. Cheryl, takes on the Pacific Crest Trail, in a effort to gain some control and meaning back in her life. The journey is remarkable, but the inner dialogue even more so. The book takes you deeper into Cheryl’s more intimate thoughts and musings and is a wonder. It is fascinating and admirable, and the book is a page turner. 

What I’ve Been Listening to

25 by Adele – the more I listen to this, the more I love it. Her power in words and vocals is simply stunning. Everyone knows it, you don’t need me to tell you!

Bowie - it goes without saying my playlist this month has been fuelled by Bowie, all Bowie, all the time...I have no words. If you need me to describe his music, the joy, the beauty, the perfection...well, you don't know music and you can't be my friend!

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